Judima: The Story of Rice Brew

Gracy Maibangsa
Gracy Maibangsa
17 year old Dimasa from Assam sharing the knowledge of my community. 

There goes a saying in Dimasa community

"Shubung de radao birdao 

Ju de radao thaodao"

With age, man becomes more stupid 

but aging wine becomes sweeter

Every ceremony among the Dimasas, whether joyous or sad, is incomplete without the brew that is known as Judima. It's sweet and strong and well-made. The Judima can taste somewhat like honey, and the colour is a mellow yellow. It's fascinating where the idea of the brew first came from. 

According to folklore, a Dimasa man packed his rice in banana leaves and went to work in the fields. He hanged the packet on a tree trunk and went about his work. When he arrived for lunch at midday, the liquid was dripping from the package in drops. When he tried it, he realised it was something exceptional. He discovered that the tree from which he had hanged his rice had the ability to transform cooked rice into a delicious drink.

Acacia pennata, a kind of wattle, was the tree. Climbing Wattle (Acacia pennata), a member of the Mimosaceae (Touch-me-not) family, is native to South and Southeast Asia. It's a tiny tree with thorny stems that may reach a height of five metres. Their juvenile branches are green, and their leaves are similar to tamarind leaves. Yellow or cream-colored blooms are produced in huge panicles at the ends of the branches.

Thin, flat, and thick sutures are used in the process. A "timbra" is the Dimasa word for this tree. Rice fermentation takes more than half a day, and stories about it are sometimes overstated. Unintentional discoveries have always added to the realm of food and drink's enjoyment. And, like wine made from rotten grapes, perfecting the combination of cooked rice and tree bark must have taken a long time.

It must have taken a long time to figure out how and where the potent power could be extracted from the tree. And how our people came to make the brew, judima.

Judima, the wine brewed by the Dimasa community in Assam, has been awarded the geographical indication (GI) tag.

This wine, made from rice and a certain herb, is the first beverage from the northeast to earn this label. The festival is being organised in the Dima Hasao hill district in the month of December, where one can enjoy songs and dances by the locals while enjoying the rice brew. 

The festival is named after "Judima," the traditional rice brew of the Dimasa community, which is unique in taste and method of preparation and is an integral part of the Dimasa social life.

Apart from being a symbolic celebration of the rich cultural artefacts of the district, the festival aims to initiate the idea of an alternative livelihood for the local brewers and tourists among the ethnic groups residing in the district.

Disclaimer: The information and data are from a recipe book Shong Dima by Kanak Hagjer.